Marvel's Daredevil: Daredevil

 

The final episode of Daredevil opens with a funeral and the first ten minutes finds all of the show’s characters defeated. Fisk’s murder of Ben Urich has brought no relief from his anger, and the double punch of Vanessa’s poisoning and his mother being found has left him even more paranoid of his partners. With Gao skipping town and some financial oddities on his accounts, Fisk has figured out that she and Owsley were responsible. He goes to take care of Owsley, who reveals he’s got an ace up his sleeve: Detective Hoffman, who has insider information on Fisk’s misdeeds.

When Owsley informs Fisk that he wasn’t the target of the poison, the animal is unchained and he throws Owsley down an elevator shaft. This action proves to be the Kingpin’s own undoing as the search for Hoffman is what leads Matt to find the crooked cop and get him to confess. The testimony and accusations against Fisk topples his empire and leaves most of the people under his employ arrested or under suspicion. In a triumphant victory march that comes at the halfway point of the episode and lasts for around five minutes, we see Fisk lose and the law firm of Nelson and Murdock celebrate. Matt finally found a way to bring his vigilante life and his career as a lawyer into accord.

Leading up to this victory is a slow reconciliation between Matt and Foggy as Foggy comes back to him with new information and evidence taken from Landman and Zack, with his ex-girlfriend Marcie’s help. Foggy is still mistrustful of Murdock’s extracurricular activities, but gradually begins to see that there is only so far the law can go, and that maybe Matt has become a little less unchained.

For Matt’s part, his attitude begins to shift, with less focus on beating the crap out of people to a more methodical and less reckless way of doing things. He still feels torn over what to do about Fisk, but also much more willing to listen to Foggy’s concerns and pleas. The scene at the boxing ring is a subtle, but significant shift in conversation from Matt’s early debates with Claire Temple about what he is doing.

Fisk’s apprehension is not the end of the story. Like most victories in the series, it’s shortlived. He gives a very on the nose monologue about one of the least critically analyzed, misunderstood, and most overused biblical stories, the Good Samaritan. Like most people in the world, Fisk tried to imagine himself as the Samaritan, without any thought he could be anyone else in the story. Of course he’s the guy who would help his fellow man! That’s what he’s been trying to do for Hell’s Kitchen all this time. Raise it up. Who doesn’t want to think that about themselves?

Of note in the Good Samaritan story is that the Samaritans were a very hated group of people in Ancient Israel. Like, super hated. If he was the one lying in the ditch no one would have helped him, because, hey, he’s a Samaritan and that’s where they belong. So that makes the Samaritan’s selflessness even greater. As Fisk talks about the Samaritan character in the story who selflessly helps others, the camera shows Karen, Matt and Foggy celebrating in their office. Just one portion of this speech that’s very lacking in subtlety. (Not that I need subtlety from this show! I don’t. I like the eager spirit with which its metaphors are projected.)

Fisk, though he’s not a religious man, was intrigued by this story and that act of selflessness. But in his current predicament he realizes that he’s been lying to himself about his true nature. He’s not a good person, or a selfless person. He is the “ill intent,” a phrase he derives from the men of ill intent that descended upon the traveler to Jericho. Suddenly, in the wake of everything that has happened, he realizes that his true nature is a man of violence, who seeks power over others.

He breaks out of the police motorcade with the help of some people loyal to him that are still free. Matt goes after him, taking a detour for the new suit that Melvin Potter has made for him. Feeling the  horns on the helmet of the suit, Matt smiles. His symbol is ready.

The two fight in an alley, Fisk releasing all of his fury upon Daredevil. Blaming him (somehow?) for all that has befallen his corporation. It might be a misplaced anger, but he’s going to make Daredevil pay.

Ultimately, in a good story, a character’s external conflict must in someway be an extension of the inner conflict. When these two forces finally meet as equals for the first time, their converging stories crash. Fisk, torn between his desire to turn himself into a good, powerful man, and Murdock, who fears he may become one of ill intent, lash out at one another. Finally, they see their distorted reflections up close and face their demons head on.

Though the Kingpin is not the martial artist Daredevil is, the pure rage and physical ferocity that D’Onforio so terrifyingly embodies makes him a physical match. The fight is not the down and dirty exhaustive fight of the earlier episodes. The show’s fight choreography has gone through a subtle transformation, going from a more martial arts, street level, physical brawl to a more stylized, fantastical approach. It makes sense, thematically, with the show’s interest in portraying Murdock’s journey toward this new superhero.

Ultimately, Matt takes down Fisk, and gets to savor the victory of standing over his enemy’s unconscious body and seeing him put in handcuffs. He escapes into the night. Fisk is sent to prison to await his trial, where he sits down on his cot and stares at the wall…and thinks of the man he wants to be.

And finally, there’s a happy ending for our good guys, who have been through so much. The losses are acute, but the victory is emotionally significant nonetheless for both the characters and the viewer. At last, the Law Office of Nelson and Murdock is christened with its plaque, and the team is back together. At the same time, the paper gives their mysterious new horned hero a name: Daredevil. A frightening reminder in the dark that reminds the city’s evil doers that there are consequences for their actions.

A final conversation between Karen and Matt hints that not all wounds are healed. Matt assures Karen, as he did Foggy earlier in the episode, that though you can’t return to the way things were or undo the things that have happened, they can move forward to heal their wounds. Together.

Heroes always get back up off the mat.

Stray Thoughts

  • I was so excited to see Daredevil’s collapsible billy clubs in action!
  • I really dig the Daredevil costume in this show. Utilitarian but still true to the comics. You never quite get a good look because of the lighting, but it fits the world of the show very well.
  • Melvin Potter makes a point of asking Murdock that Betsy will be alright. Matt assures him he’ll keep his promise. It feels like an unnecessary exchange if that’s not followed up on in the future. Perhaps we’ll see the Gladiator in action?
  • Sad to see Owlsley go. Such a lovable villain.
  • Have I shared with you this amazing fan video yet, set to Chumbawumba? If so, oh well. If not, watch it in all its glory here.

Marvel Facts

  • Speaking of Owsley…there’s a character in the comics with the same name who becomes a super villain called the Owl. Obviously our Leland never takes on that identity, but there’s been a son mentioned a few times, so if it’s Leland Jr. there’s a slight chance he’ll show up. But who knows?
  • Since starting up these recaps (and thanks for sticking around if you did, I know the show’s been out for a while) we’ve gotten a lot of news about the future of the series. Let’s recap:
    • Season 2 is happening. Yay!
    • The Punisher has been confirmed to appear and will be portrayed by John Bernthal. This is cool, because I’m not a big Punisher fan and would much rather see him in a supporting, antagonistic role to a character I do enjoy. The difference in method and ideology should make for some great drama and action scenes.
    • Elektra has also been confirmed! She will be portrayed by Elodie Young. Everyone knew this was going to happen if we were going to get a season 2. But nice to see it official. I hope the creators don’t go as off the rails with her as Frank Miller eventually did.

And that’s all she wrote, folks. Excelsior!

 

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